An international trio of astronauts including a veteran Russian cosmonaut, an Italian rookie and an American mother docked at the International Space Station in record time Tuesday night.
The new Expedition 36 crew arrived in just under six hours, according to NASA.
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"I've never felt better in my life," flight commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, 54, said just after docking while sailing high over the South Pacific, according to Space.com.
The rocket lifted off at 4:31 p.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, streaking through clear, pre-dawn skies as it headed into orbit.
It also carried NASA's Karen Nyberg, a 43-year-old mechanical engineer on her second flight, and Luca Parmitano, 36, a major in the Italian Air Force. The new crew members will spend the next six months in space.
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They are scheduled to perform five spacewalks to prepare the complex for the installation of the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module in December, as well as a Nov. 9 spacewalk to take the Olympic torch outside, according to NASA.
The crew also will welcome the arrival of several visiting cargo vehicles.
"Sun, birds, smell of grass & fresh air; nice walk w/ family along 'Ave of Cosmonauts' #simplejoysonearth," Nyberg tweeted before the launch.